|by Sal Seeley LCSW|
|I Have an STD, Now What?
So you went and got yourself tested for STDs. Good boy! But, uh-oh...one of the tests came back positive. Now what? Well, first of all, don't panic. Many gay men will receive at least one STD in their lifetime. If you've never had one, you're lucky. If you get one, it's not the end of the world. It's important not only to get yourself treated but to talk with guys you might have had sex with. They also could be infected with a nasty bug. What do you do? Tell or not?
Deciding what to do isn't always easy or simple, especially if you haven't faced this problem before, or turned away from it last time. When you're trying to figure something out, give yourself time to contemplate and work it through to get an answer that feels right. Resist the temptation to give up or shut down because it seems too overwhelming or too messy.
Knowing why giving them a heads-up is recommended may also be helpful. Here are two reasons. Having an untreated STD makes HIV transmission two-to-four times more likely.
Eighty percent of people who have an STD don't know they have one. By putting those two facts together, what he doesn't know can hurt him by making him more vulnerable to other diseases. Therefore, you might be taking him out of harm's way.
So, how do you tell him that you have an STD? The first step is to know what you have, how it's treated and if it's curable or not. Who will you tell? Next, make a list of all the people you think might need to know. The conservative guideline is to tell everyone you've hooked up with in the past six months. Hopefully, getting the list together won't involve using a spreadsheet. Just do the best you can.
In some cases, you may not have to go back six months. If your STD normally shows symptoms within 12 days and it just so happened that a few weeks ago you went on a weekend-long sex binge, re-creating a six-month, sexual history might be overkill. Use common sense. However, if the STD has the potential for serious consequences if left untreated, like syphilis, telling everyone you can think of is a generous thing to do.
Then, it's time to consider all the ways of getting in touch and figure out which ones will work for you. The obvious choices are calling him, dropping off a note, mailing him, emailing or arranging a meeting. The next step is to match each guy on your list with a method of getting in touch. A good rule of thumb is: the more personal the relationship, the more personal the method should be.
When letting him know also means telling him that you haven't been exactly monogamous, it's probably best to tell him in person. (To make it easier on him, tell him at your place so he can feel free to leave if he needs some space). If you want the sexual relationship to continue, you have to muster-up the courage and just do it. If the relationship is strong, it'll just be a blip on the screen someday.
If it's someone you sleep with regularly, you'll also have to ask them to let you know when they've finished their course of meds and are in the clear so you can have sex again. The last thing you want to do is pass the same STD back and forth. Once you've both been treated, you can pick up right where you left off.
Sal Seeley is Program Director of CAMPsafe, an HIV/AIDS program funded through a contract with the Delaware Division of Public Health. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Confidential HIV testing is available at CAMP Rehoboth. Call Sal at 302-227-5620 to schedule an appointment.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 10 July 25, 2008